Monday, 15 August 2011

A preliminary list!

Hello everyone,
We have reached the middle of 2011 and I think we all should introspect on the resolutions we may have made during the start of the year. And if those resolutions included reading books, you have come to the right place. I present a list of books to read which I feel everyone should read at least at some point in their lives if not this year. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments box below. (The numbers are serial numbers and do not indicate ranks of any sort).

1. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
It is inarguably the best book written on the mafia. The characters have been very well etched out  and this book has rightly acquired legendary status. Also, it has been made into an Academy Award winning movie. Most famous line from the book-"I'll make him an offer he cannot refuse."
A lot of information about the organisational hierarchy of the traditional Italian mafia,or the mafiosi, the Sicilian terms used and Italian family customs.

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This is one novel which transcends all categories of readers and is a favorite with everyone. Originally written in Portuguese, this novel has been translated into 67 languages and is one of the most widely sold books of all time. "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." This is what the book teaches one through the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy. This novel allows one to delve into philosophy of a slightly different nature.

3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The two cities here refer to London and Paris and the novel is set during and before the French Revolution.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

—Opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities
 The above paragraph is a fair indication of how the novel tends to contrast the lives of the people in the two cities through various characters. One of the most well known works in literature and it remains a part of curricula in educational institutions across the world.
4. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

 Certainly one of the most revolutionary books of all time, this fantasy series delighted children and adults alike with the fascinating world it incorporates. Comprising of seven books, this series catapulted its author to instant fame and wealth. It has also been made into a series of movies. Currently, the Harry Potter brand value is said to be worth more than $15 billion! Truly, one of the bestsellers ever!

5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

 Published in 1869, this novel gives a detailed account of the events leading up to and related to the French invasion of Russia. This novel is famous for the fine style in which its been written and constantly finds a place in the top lists published by any reputed body. Though it is longer than most other novels, its length does not act as a deterrent to people who love reading.

6. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

 Also known as The Whale, this book is a study in literature itself. The author uses an array of literary instruments to portray the story of a sailor who seeks revenge from a whale named Moby Dick. Through the story, Herman Melville draws constant parallels with the issues in human society. This novel was first published in the year 1851 and is a legend in the world of books.

7. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
 Personally, I feel this is one of the most unique books ever written in terms of exploring the complex facets of  human beings. All the characters have their idiosyncrasies but none more than the protagonist,Howard Roark, an architect who believes in his style of work and holds on to his beliefs even if it means risking fading into oblivion. Published in 1943, it is arguably Ayn Rand's greatest success. It is said that though the initial sales were slow, it was word-of-mouth publicity that turned this book into a bestseller.

8. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
On the surface, this book may seem to be a light read, but there is much more to it than its comic appeal. It is based on three widowed men, or more specifically, their lives, their experiences, their sorrows and their happy moments. This novel is beautifully written. And oh yeah, this novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2010.

9. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Termed as the prequel to the more famous work of Dan Brown-The Da Vinci Code, this is one of the best books I have ever read. Like Da Vinci Code, it shares a lot of content on secret societies, conspiracies, symbols and some startling facts. The ones to be mentioned are the Illuminati(a secret society which hatches a plot to annihilate Vatican City using anti-matter), ambigrams(words written in such a way that they look exactly the same if turned upside down ie rotated by 180 degrees), CERN(the advanced scientific research facility), the papal customs and of course, the protagonist,Robert Langdon. Dan Brown gives a fascinating account of Vatican City and the rituals involved in choosing the Pope et al. This novel is a bundle of twists and turns and you can never guess what's coming. Truly unputdownable. Go for it. Also turned into a movie.

10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Very highly acclaimed by critics and book enthusiasts alike, this novel tells the story of Afghanistan's struggle through the protagonist Amir, a young boy from Kabul. This book is divided into three parts. We learn about the fall of the monarchy ; the mass exodus of people to Pakistan; and also the rise of the Taliban. It makes for an excellent read. Hosseini laid the groundwork for his next novel A Thousand Splendid Suns. The Kite Runner, the movie, was released in the year 2007.

11. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Well, first things first. This novel won the Man Booker prize in 1981. And, it was also awarded the Booker of Bookers prize. Reason enough to read this book, isn't it? If it's not, then let me describe the plot a bit. It is about the events in India before and after India's partition and Independence. The events are symbolic in nature and is not a historical reference. The protagonist, Saleem Sinai, was born the exact moment India gained independence. He has telepathic powers. He discovers that all the children born in India between 12 AM and 1 AM on 15th August 1947 have  special powers. Hence, the name Midnight's Children. Saleem tries to bring together these children and tries to find meaning behind these powers. Later, the book also imbibes political events like the Emergency during Indira Gandhi's regime et al. A must read.

 12. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga(2008)

Another Booker winner.Another delectable novel. Just read it a few weeks back and the simplicity of the language used by the author struck me profoundly. The whole book is in the form of a letter addressed to the current head of the Chinese government, Wen Jiabao.It is a dark yet comical story narrated by the protagonist,Balram Halwai. It gives us a deep insight into the two different India's - the prosperpous, and the poverty stricken. Balram may be a murderer but still he manages to draw the reader to sympathize with him.An engaging read.

 13. Timeline by Michael Crichton

It is a science fiction novel about a group of historians who end up in medieval France plagued by dangers. The book combines quantum physics,time travel and lots of action.The accurate description of the medieval era makes it a fascinating read. The gripping action ensures that even non science fiction buffs find the novel interesting. The book starts with an ill man found in a desert in New Mexico being taken to a hospital, where doctors find significant abnormalities in his blood. Though its plot holds great promise for a scintillating movie, the movie itself turned out to be a damp squib.Definitely one of Crichton's best.

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